South Africa | Not wearing your mask? Flouting Covid-19 regulations outside the office could earn you a dismissal

A young man wearing a mask.

A young man wearing a mask.

Not wearing a mask or lying about your Covid-19 status could land you in hot water with your employer.

Employers could take disciplinary action or dismiss employees who flout Covid-19 regulations outside of work.

If an employer could prove an employee had behaved recklessly, and by so doing endangered their co-workers, the company could take disciplinary action, according to Justin Hattingh, a senior legal advisor at Strata-g Labour Solutions.

This is because staff is obligated under the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Act to assist their employer in keeping everyone at the workplace safe and healthy.

Should an employer be able to prove someone had exposed other employees at work to Covid-19, they could have a basis to act, said Hattingh.

READ | People arrested for not wearing masks in public will have criminal records, warns Cele

Failing to disclose your Covid-19 status could end in a similar result, if it comes to light that a staff member put their colleagues at risk knowingly.

"The possibility of disciplining staff for providing false or misleading information also exists. At the end of the day, employees need to be reasonable, and they need to understand that their conduct not only affects themselves, but it can affect everyone else," said Hattingh.

However, to exercise these rights, employers will need to have policies and occupational health and safety-related offences in their codes of conduct. If an employee is dismissed for flouting Covid-19 regulations without these policies, the dismissal could be considered unfair.

"Short of disciplining employees, employers must explain to their staff that if they don't comply with regulations and they then become ill, they won't be able to work and could potentially be placed on unpaid leave. That would affect them from an economic point of view.

"Employers therefore, need to appeal to their employees' humanity by reminding them that reckless behaviour could lead to a superspreader event in the workplace, affecting everyone's livelihoods and even placing their families at risk," said Hattingh.

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